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Robert Wannell ENG4U

Hamlet Adversity Essay (good copy)


The death of a family member or close friend can be a traumatic, life altering experience and everyone
has their own methods of dealing with grief. In Shakespeares Hamlet, the murder of a parent causes
individuals to engage in self destructive behavior. Shakespeare has written many tragedies where
characters have to deal with the prospect of death including Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet as well as King
Lear. When Hamlet discovers that his father has been murdered by his uncle he puts on an antic
disposition, which plagues Hamlets existence and makes his life more difficult than before. Prince
Fortinbras father is murdered at the hands of the Danish king. As leader of Norway, the young Prince
makes several hasty political decisions in response to his fathers death that jeopardise his own well being
and the safety of Norway and Denmark. Lastly, Polonius is murdered by Hamlet and when Laertes learns
this, he acts impulsively without thinking of the harm he is inflicting upon himself. Laertes, Fortinbras
and Hamlet all respond to grief in a way that is dangerous to themselves and the people they care about.
The most prominent example of a character making rash decisions as a result of a murder of their parent
is Prince Hamlet himself. From the moment Hamlets ghosts reveals that Claudius is the murderer,
Hamlet feigns insanity to hide his intentions of revenge. By pretending to be insane, Hamlet ruins the
remaining time of his life. Ophelia describes an encounter with Hamlet to Polonius, describing how
Hamlet breaks into her chambers while she is sewing. Ophelia discusses Hamlets mad appearance and
says as if he had been loose out of hell, to speak of horrors he comes before me (II. i 84-85). This is an
act of self destruction, since Ophelia is Hamlets girlfriend. By frightening Ophelia in her bedroom,
Hamlet compromises his only romantic relationship therefore making his life less enjoyable. This action
also convinces Polonius that Hamlet is lovesick, further complicating his situation with Claudius. After
Hamlet presents the Mousetrap, he is called upon by his mother Gertrude to discuss how the play
offended his father. As a response to Gertrudes comment, Hamlet acts out of hostility and says come,
come, and sit you down; you shall not budge: you go not, till I set you up a glass, where you may see the
inmost part of you (III. iv 19-22). By acting aggressively towards his mother he lets his passion take
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Robert Wannell ENG4U


over and he fails to realize that Gertrude is one of the few people that trust him. Despite the fact that he
tells his mother he is only faking madness, Hamlets behavior only causes his mother to worry about him.
Another example of Hamlets s self destructive methods of dealing with the murder of his father is when
Claudius confronts him about the location of Poloniuss body. Hamlet responds to Claudiuss request and
says that Poloniuss corpse is at supper, (IV. iii 18) meaning it is decaying and being eaten by worms
and maggots. By speaking about Poloniuss murder in a morbid and shameless manner Hamlet only
makes himself out to be more of a threat to Claudius, endangering his own life in the process. Hamlet
clearly does not think of an excuse or convenient way out of the situation. Hamlet merely speaks out of
impulse which, in turn, leads to him being murdered, the ultimate consequence of self destructive
behaviour. There is no doubt that Hamlet faces a difficult dilemma in dealing with his fathers murder,
however, his response to it leads to his downfall.
While Hamlet endangers himself by pretending to be insane, Prince Fortinbras does so by making
reckless political decisions. Prince Fortinbras loses his father as a result of a war started by Hamlets
father. The Norwegian Prince risks his own life and the lives of his own people by dealing with the issues
left by his father. After Horatio witnesses the ghost, he describes the conflict with Norway and says to
recover of us, by strong hand and terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands so by his father lost (I.i 102104). This quote demonstrates that Prince Fortinbras is dealing with his fathers death by acting violently
towards the nation of Denmark which puts himself at risk, too. By demanding the land that his father lost,
Fortinbras is provoking conflict with Denmark, which makes him appear to be a threat. When Hamlet is
about to leave for England, he is greeted by Fortinbras captain who states that we go to gain a little
patch of land that hath no profit in it but the name (IV.iv 17-18). Even after Denmark managed to settle
the agreement with Norway earlier in the play, Prince Fortinbras is still persisting on obtaining land in
Poland for the sake of his father. This illustrates that Fortinbras has no concern for his own life, since he
is once again prepared to go to war. It is evident that Fortinbras behavior after his fathers death is self
destructive as shown by his conquests for land in both Norway and Denmark.

Robert Wannell ENG4U


While Fortinbras is a Prince with access to an entire army, Laertes is lower on the social scale. Laertes
father, Polonius, is murdered by Hamlet. When Laertes discovers this, he makes several bold decisions
that lead to his downfall. When Claudius confronts Laertes about taking his revenge on Hamlet by killing
him in a fencing accident Laertes says and for that purpose Ill anoint my sword (IV, vii 141). By
accepting Claudius plan to fence with Hamlet and kill him through treachery, Laertes is putting himself
at risk as well. Laertes merely takes the first opportunity he is given to seek revenge for his fathers
murder. By entering a fight with Hamlet, he has the chance to do so. Laertes never rules out the option
that Hamlet also has an opportunity to kill him in the duel. Laertes also displays self destructive behavior
at Ophelias funeral. During the funeral, Laertes jumps into the grave in front of everyone and holds
Ophelias body saying his last goodbyes. While this may seem like an appropriate act of love for his
sister, it shows Laertes has lost all respect for himself. Firstly, there is the actual physical harm that
Laertes is inflicting upon himself by jumping into a grave and he also does not take in to consideration
what everyone thinks of him. It is an act of self destruction since it is pitiful, embarrassing and shows he
has no dignity in the face of adversity. Laertes behaves impulsively after the death of Polonius and he
does things that make the reader question whether or not he has any self respect left.
In Shakespeares Hamlet, characters display careless, self-destructive behaviour after the death of a
parent. Prince Hamlet loses his girlfriend, the trust of his mother and puts himself at risk of being
murdered by Claudius, all by pretending to be mad. Young Prince Fortinbras attempts to resolve his
fathers conflicts by sending his army to obtain l
and, putting himself at risk. Lastly, after Polonius dies, Laretes acts impulsively and loses his dignity. The
pain of parental death is a good test of character and Shakespeare uses this scenario to drive much of the
plot in Hamlet.

Robert Wannell ENG4U